Alleged victim of abusive priest speaks for 1st time
Alleged victim of abusive priest speaks for 1st time
Two weeks ago, he sued pastor who's still on the job
Man challenges priest & his boss to "public discussion"
At least 3 others say cleric assaulted them at orphanage
And SNAP files formal complaint to Vatican re: archbishop
Accuses him of "concealing abuses" thru intimidation & deception
At a Zoom news conference, a man who last month sued a still-serving St. Louis pastor for repeatedly molesting him as a child at an orphanage, will
--discuss his experiences and new lawsuit for the first time (including being abused by the priest and beaten by older boys as staff watched for their enjoyment),
---beg St. Louis' archbishop to suspend the cleric (who's been accused by at least three other men), and
—challenge the archbishop to hold a joint meeting - with both of them - to discuss the case in front of all the accused pastor’s parishioners.
And a long time leader of SNAP will also disclose a first-ever, newly-filed official complaint to the Vatican under a relatively new and untested church process. In it, SNAP details specific ways St. Louis' archbishop continues to "deliberately deter victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from exposing child sex crimes and cover ups," involving Fr. Anderson and other predator priests.
Thursday, March 3 at 11 a.m. (central time)
A Georgia mechanic who is the fifth man to say the same priest molested him as a boy at south city orphanage, his attorney & a St. Louis man who is the volunteer director of Missouri SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
1) Last month, Christian Hornbeck filed a civil suit against Fr. Alex R. Anderson, an archdiocesan priest who now pastors St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in DeSoto.
The suit charges that Fr. Anderson sexually assaulted him as recently as 2002 at the now-closed St. Joseph's Home for Boys in south St. Louis city.
(Fr. Anderson's other work assignments - in Maryland Heights, Concord Village, Lemay, Mattese, Eureka and the city - are detailed here.).
Hornbeck is speaking now wihn the hope of "getting Fr. Anderson suspended and away from vulnerable kids," "urging parents and parishioners to keep him away from their children" and showing that he "has nothing to hide or be ashamed of" As a boy, Hornbeck reported being physically bullied and abused by older boys at the home. At times, he said, staffers put him in a 'quiet room' and sent other boys in to fight him so they could watch the fights for “sport,” according to the lawsuit.
Anderson regularly went back to the home, after being transferred elsewhere, to offer counseling and guidance. He used those opportunities to “manipulate, control and groom” and sexually abuse Hornbeck, according to the lawsuit.
2) In 2019, responding to continual pressure, Pope Francis set up an official process (called Vos Estis) to field complaints and accept evidence of bishops’ concealing and mishandling child sex abuse cases. Never before has SNAP used internal church complaint mechanisms. But in a detailed filing, the group charges that in a number of ways - both commission and omission - Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski - has and is "deliberately concealing predators and impeding abuse investigations by deterring victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from exposing child sex crimes and cover ups," involving Fr. Anderson and other predator priests.
The relatively new Vatican procedure expires in June 2021.
SNAP has little confidence that the Vatican will take its complaint seriously, but notes that more than a half dozen US bishops are or have been launched in Minnesota, New York, Wyoming and elsewhere. A similar Vos Estis complaint was filed against Rozanski by victims and advocates in Massachusetts where he worked before being transferred to St. Louis (For details: Olan at [email protected] or 413-265-3796)
The new civil case, 2222-CC00244, was filed on 2/10/22, is pending in St Louis City Circuit Court before Judge Michael Stelzer. Other defendants include a non-profit and a group of nuns who ran the home.
COPY of VOS ESTIS COMPLAINT
That cleric is Fr. Alex R. Anderson, an active parish priest in the archdiocese of St. Louis. (https://www.stroseparish.info/)
Despite being accused of molesting at least five boys - none of whom know each other – and being named in at least two pending civil abuse lawsuits, Fr. Anderson has not been suspended for a single day by St. Louis Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski nor by his predecessors.
We are filing today a formal complaint against Rozanski via ReportBishopAbuse.org, the Catholic church’s official complaint portal.
Two years ago, responding to intense pressure, Pope Francis adopted a policy called Vos Estis. It requires the reporting of any bishop with conduct "consisting of actions or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil investigations or canonical investigations, whether administrative or penal, against a cleric or a religious" regarding sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults.https://www.bishop-accountability.org/Vatican/2019_05_07_Pope_Francis_Vos_Estis_Lux_Mundi.htm#Art_17
Vos Estis is a “watershed,” said Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Pope’s trusted abuse investigator. “[T]he silence, omertà and cover-ups can now become a thing of the past.”https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/stewards-of-the-innocent-charles-j-scicluna.773018
It's also been described, by one of Francis' most prominent and trusted US church officials, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, as “extraordinary in the fact there is a mishandling by a bishop who’s responsible for an investigation, then he is liable to be investigated for any cover-up.”https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2019/05/09/catholic-leaders-welcome-pope-francis-new-rules-reporting-sex-abuse
With this, our formal complaint against Rozanski, we hope you will show these promises to be real, and not merely one more set of empty words by the Catholic hierarchy.
But we ask you to pause, before reading our full Vos Estis complaint, to ask yourself a simple question: "On its face, can you think of a more egregious and reckless violation of the church's 'zero tolerance' pledges (and the requirements of Vos Estis) than for a bishop to keep a priest who's been accused of molesting at least five boys at an orphanage - none of whom know each other - and who faces at least two pending civil abuse lawsuits and has never even been suspended for a day?"
It's been two decades since all US bishops promised, in a purportedly binding first-ever national abuse policy, to promptly oust, then investigate, accused predatory priests. Since then, and perhaps even before then, we know of no other case in which a cleric has been accused five times without ever even been suspended from his post around kids.
(Here's what then-US Conference of Catholic Bishops president Wilton Gregory promised when that policy was adopted: "From this day forward no one known to have sexually abused a child will work in the Catholic church in the United States. The 'Charter' ensures that young people are protected, that victims are truly listened to and assisted, that all priests are trustworthy and that all bishops act responsibly."
Based on our decades of experience in the trenches, consoling thousands of deeply wounded survivors of clergy sex crimes and cover ups, we firmly believe that anything less than complete transparency and disclosure regarding sexual abuse by a bishop constitutes "actions or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil investigations or canonical investigations" of abuse.
The way you 'avoid' or 'impede' an abuse investigation is to say and do things that deter victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from reporting what they know or suspect about abuse. Archbishop Rozanski has done and is doing just that.
This is especially egregious given Pope Francis' repeated public statements that openness is crucial and is now required of church officials.
Rozanski's handling of abuse reports re Fr. Alex R. Anderson
(NOTE: Accusers #1, #2 and #3 came forward under Rozanski's predecessors. Accusers #4 and #5 have come forward while Rozanski's headed the St. Louis archdiocese. Accusers #4 and #5 have pending civil abuse and cover up lawsuits against Fr. Anderson and the archdiocese.)
Last month, Christian Hornbeck became the latest man to report having been victimized as a boy by Fr. Anderson at St. Joseph's Home for Boys in St. Louis.
Was he met with compassion by archdiocesan officials? No. He was met with hostility, as other victims of Fr. Anderson have been.
Rozanski did not suspend Fr. Anderson. He and his staff attacked the abuse report with no substantive investigation. And they attacked a previous man who accused Fr. Anderson of abuse. (Details below.)
These moves no doubt added to the fear and hopelessness felt by others with information or suspicions about Fr. Anderson's wrongdoing. They interfered with or avoided civil investigations or canonical investigations by actively discouraging those who may have seen, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups from stepping forward.
Imagine that you had been molested by Fr. Anderson and had ruminated for years about whether to call secular or church authorities.
Or that years ago, in another parish where Fr. Anderson worked, you had seen him molest a child.
Or that you saw some interaction between Fr. Anderson and a boy that seemed inappropriate to you, though it wasn't clear-cut abuse.
Then you learn that a fifth accuser reported alleged child sex crimes against Fr. Anderson. And that Rozanski did not suspend Fr. Anderson.
Imagine how you respond. Surely, you would be far less optimistic that your taking action would have any impact whatsoever. You might be hopeless or even feel intimidated by the apparent power of this accused priest or by how church officials seem to often rally around alleged offenders. Perhaps you would even descend into depression, deeply saddened by the fact that Fr. Anderson seems 'untouchable,' and consistently protected by his church supervisors.
In another obvious effort to interfere with or avoid civil investigations or canonical investigations, Rozanski simultaneously allowed or instructed his public relations staffers, and Fr. Anderson himself, to issue public statements that
--were hurtful to Fr. Anderson's accusers,
--were hurtful to other abuse victims, inside and outside the church,
--were intended to promote complacency, not vigilance, by Fr. Anderson's flock,
--discourage others who may have seen, suspected or suffered abuse, not just by Fr. Anderson but by any child predator anywhere, from stepping forward and
--lead parishioners and the public away from vigilance and toward complacency, encouraging them to trust Fr. Anderson rather than err on the side of safeguarding the vulnerable.
Specifcally, Rozanski's public relations staff issued a formal statement claiming that
a) that "prior allegations” against Fr. Anderson have been disproven or retracted,
b) the latest accusation against Fr. Anderson is “demonstrably false” simply because the alleged abuse took place when the priest returned to a former assignment to molest a child, rather than doing so when he was still assigned to his post, and
c) disclosing that one of Fr. Anderson’s accusers is in prison for “financial fraud, and
And they let Fr. Anderson use church resources (the St. Rose of Lima weekly parish bulletin) to defend himself and defame his accuser(s).
Rozanski and his staff need not have said or done any of this. And consider how each of these actions and remarks impede or avoid investigations.
a) "prior allegations” against Fr. Anderson have been disproven or retracted.
One can quibble as to the intent of church officials in saying this. But the obvious result is further disspiriting anyone with knowledge or suspicions of wrongdoing.
The archbishop and his staff could have said nothing about prior allegations against Fr. Anderson. As opposed to 'disproven,' they could have used more accurate and sensitive language, like many church officials do, such as 'unable to be substantiated.'
More than 115 archdiocesan staff, most of them priests, have been accused of abuse. So Rozanski and his staff have had ample experience in these matters. They are smart, well-educated men. They choose their words carefully. They know how to respond to abuse charges appropriately and sensitively. They know what to say to encourage fearful victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to come forward.
But they choose, in this case and others, to depress and intimidate victims, witnesses and whistleblowers, and prevent, disrupt or make more difficult any investigations, pending or prospective, by using hurtful and deceptive language.
b) the latest accusation against Fr. Anderson is “demonstrably false” simply because the alleged abuse took place when the priest returned to a former assignment to molest a child, rather than doing so when he was still assigned to his post.
A recent letter to the editor of the Post Dispatch explains this succinctly:
"Since when did child molesters limit themselves to assaulting only children at their current place of employment?
That's evidently what officials at the St. Louis Catholic archdiocese believe. In response to a new abuse and cover up lawsuit against Fr. Alex Anderson, a church statement says that the charges are 'demonstrably false.' Why? Because 'Fr. Anderson was not assigned to St. Joseph Home during the time the claimant was a resident.'
Is it impossible for a teacher to return to his former school and force his tongue into a girl's mouth? Is it unheard of for a counselor to visit a camp where he once worked and shove his hands down a boy's pants?
This type of denial - 'I couldn't have done it. I wasn't even there at the time' - is commonly offered up by alleged abusers. But it obscures a simple reality: in mere seconds a predator can hurt a child. Where a predator lives or works is irrelevant.
Kathy Peterson, St. Louis
And again, consider the intent of church officials here. What could their motive be for making such a ridiculous claim, that because Fr. Anderson was not ASSIGNED to the Boys Home during Hornbeck's alleged abuse, he could not possibly have gone back to VISIT the Home and abused the boy then?
Their motive must be to prop up and protect Fr. Anderson, instill complacency in his flock and show anyone who might speak up about Fr. Anderson that such a step would be futile. The message is clear: no matter how many accusers, no matter what the circumstances may be, no matter how they might choose to disclose their suffering, nothing will keep Fr. Anderson out of his pulpit and away from children.
c) disclosing that one of Fr. Anderson’s accusers is in prison for “financial fraud."
This is hurtful in two ways. First, this intentionally warns victims that "If you sue the church, we in the church will publicly reveal whatever in your past that causes you the most pain and shame."
Victims now fear that should they step forward, anything in their past that might embarrass or discredit them will be publicly disclosed by church authorities, no matter how private or painful.
Second, this intentionally warns victims "If ever you have done anything that might hurt your perceived credibility, we in the church will publicly reveal it and use it to our legal and public relations benefit."
Ask yourself: "Who benefits from making an accuser's background or history public?" The answer is plain: the accused and his employers, no one else.
And ask yourself: "What is the likely outcome if church officials attack the credibility of an accuser?" The answer is plain: the accused and his employers, no one else.
Take a step back and ask yourself: "How might a person react in adulthood after having been sexually violated in childhood by a trusted religious authority figure?"
Common sense, history and psychology all strongly show that child sex abuse radically and traumatically upend victims' world views. Trying desperately to cope with the pain and confusion, the overwhelming majority of victims turn to hurtful, anti-social, self-destructive and sometimes illegal behaviors, like addictions and crime. Doesn't it make sense that a child abused by a purported "man of God" might conclude that rules don't really matter and that it's ok to act entitled and to deceive others and break the law?
In fact, we submit that when an accuser has engaged in wrongful and hurtful behavior - towards himself or others - it should be considered as likely evidence of childhood trauma, not as discrediting of such a claim.
If you are skeptical of any accuser, be wary of the person who says "My entire world was thrown into doubt and chaos when an allegedly celibate representative of Jesus Christ, who can get me into heaven by forgiving my sins, sexually violated me. Yet I've gone on to lead a perfectly virtuous life, and managed somehow to avoid acting inappropriately, since I've magically overcome any and all my anger, suffering, confusion, shame and self-blame."
Let's address Rozanski letting Fr. Anderson use the St. Rose of Lima parish bulletin, at least three times, to defend himself and attack his accusers.
If a professor is accused of sexual misdeeds, does the college that employs him let him use school resources to defend himself? If a coach allegedly sexually assaults a child, does his team or league let him use team or league resources to attack his accuser? Of course not.
Again, what message does this use of church resources on Fr. Andreson's behalf send to victims, witnesses and whistleblowers? Does it encourage them or discourage them from calling the police or the chancery?
For decades, Catholic officials have repeatedly claimed concern and compassion for abuse victims. But not once does Fr. Anderson express any sympathy whatsoever for those who accuse him nor victims of other predators, inside or outside the church. Nor does he implore his flock to pray for them, much less to report any abuse they see, suspect or suffer in any context or institution.
Very quickly after Accuser #4, John Doe, filed suit, Rozanski decided to keep Fr. Anderson on the job and publicly attack Doe.
Rozanski's official archdiocesan public statement needlessly and hurtfully discloses that Doe is in prison.
That suit is still pending. Nothing in it in any way contradicts what other Fr. Anderson accusers have said in public or in legal filings.
So to recap, Rozanski keeps Fr. Anderson on the job around kids as head of a parish despite at least five separate formal and public allegations of child sexual abuse (two of which are pending civil lawsuits). He makes and allow others to make hurtful, intimidating public remarks about the case. He reveals embarrassing facts about an accuser. He impedes any real probe into the abuse reports by refusing to suspend Fr. Anderson, for even one day, so that an independent investigation into the allegations could happen.
(It's tragic to note that no St. Louis archbishop, at any point over the past two decades, has suspended Fr. Anderson.)
Finally, the two most recent accusers are not merely accusers. They are plaintiffs. They came forward through the admittedly-flawed but well-respected and long-standing US civil justice system, which gives their complaints added validity. Each of them had to be credible enough to convince an experienced and widely-respected attorney, with a long and impressive track record in their
And they did so despite the fact that earlier abuse reports against Fr. Anderson were ignored, rebuffed and rejected by archdiocesan staffers and one resulted in a civil defamation suit filed against an accuser.
Sadly, Rozanski's predecessors acted with similar disregard for common sense, public safety and long-standing Catholic church promises to safeguard kids. In so doing, he and they have repeatedly interfered with or avoided civil or canonical (abuse) investigations.
In 2004, another Fr. Anderson accuser stepped forward. He did not file a lawsuit. He did not talk publicly about his experiences. He merely did what archdiocesan officials asked victims to do: report to church officials.
Tragically and inexplicably, they chose to disbelieve him, without explanation, despite him having no apparent credibility issues or ill motive.
According to the Post Dispatch, "Monsignor Richard Stika, the vicar general in St. Louis, said the church followed policy by holding a hearing within 48 hours of getting the man's complaint." (NOTE: Stika, now bishop of Knoxville, faces at least one Vos Estis complaint himself, stemming from a case filed just last month.)
It's hard to imagine any kind of 'investigation' that is held within 48 hours of an abuse report. Imagine if you were abused by Fr. Anderson, or another archdiocesan employee. Imagine that you're struggling with the decision "Do I speak up or not?"
Imagine trying to find the courage to disclose the most painful experience you've ever endured to strangers, whether police, prosecutor, therapist or archdiocesan employee.
After the mysterious rebuff of Accuser #3, and church officials' decision to keep Fr. Anderson in his parish, you are no doubt far less inclined to stick your neck out, do your civil and moral duty, and report what you've suffered. The same is true of a witness or whistleblower in this situation.
The first public abuse allegation against Fr. Anderson surfaced in 2002. The priest was not suspended. The archdiocese quickly dismissed the report.
The New York Times reported that
“Meeting with (then-Bishop Timothy Dolan) about a week after (an accuser) called, Fr. Anderson acknowledged that during summers at St. Joseph' Home for Boys, he had invited boys to sleep in his study because it was air-conditioned. But he firmly denied Mr. Andreas's accusations.
Bishop Dolan (now heading the New York Archdiocese), who said he had checked the priest's personnel files and found no hint of a problem, was convinced on the spot.
"He said it with a lot of peace," (Dolan) recalled in a 2003 deposition. I found myself convinced because of his — his tranquillity, his serenity and, I also have to say, because of his reputation."
(Fr. Anderson claims he offered to step down after the abuse was made but his supervisors rejected this move.)
So right out of the box, Fr. Anderson was given every benefit of the doubt, no church investigation was launched, no suspension was given. Nor were any one else who may have seen, suspected or suffered abuse or cover up - by Fr. Anderson or others at the orphanage - urged to come forward to either church or secular authorities, a move that might well have produced information that may have helped or begun investigations by authorities.
Ask yourself: Did this move hurt or help potential investigations into abuse reports against Fr. Anderson? Surely, some individuals with suspicions or knowledge of Fr. Anderson's misdeeds kept quiet in the wake of such obvious, high-level support for the accused and such near-immediate disregard for the accuser(s).
Again, this alone, from our point of view, shows deliberate intent by then-Archbishop Justin Rigali to conduct "actions or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil investigations or canonical investigations."
(According to the Post Dispatch, then-vicar general Msgr. Richard Stika "said at the time that Fr. Anderson was a chaplain for nuns, not students, and had little or no access to individual students." Fr. Anderson, however, contradicted this when he told the New York Times that he let boys 'sleep over' in his bedroom because it was air-conditioned while the rest of the home was not.)
Even worse, Rigali allowed Fr. Anderson to sue his accuser, even though his accuser never made his accusations public. Talk about a move that "interfere with or avoid(s) civil investigations or canonical investigations." Could there possibly be a more chilling action for a priest to take or a bishop to condone? Who knows how many others, struggling in shame, confusion, fear and self-blame, chose to remain silent in the shadows because officials of the St. Louis Archdiocese encouraged, tolerated or ignored this mean-spirited
Eventually this accuser counter-sued Fr. Anderson. The archdiocese paid this accuser $3222,500, claiming it was NOT a settlement but merely Christian charity.
Fr. Anderson had made numerous demands in public which he alleged would have to be met before he dropped his suit against his accuser. (They included retractions and apologies from the accuser and from SNAP and the removal of all information about Fr. Anderson from the SNAP website.)
These 'demands' were never met.
In at least one 2002 media report, archdiocesan officials revealed that Fr. Anderson had been accused before by an unnamed individual but claimed that person had 'recanted.'
They have publicly mentioned this purported 'recantation' several times since then, while providing no details whatsoever. We consider this individual Accuser #5.)
Given the early egregious, hurtful, intimidating and depressing moves in cases against Fr. Anderson, it’s especially crucial that subsequent archdiocesan actions regarding the multiple abuse reports against Fr. Anderson be handled with great care.
But they haven’t been. In fact, Rozanski did just the reverse. Taking steps that obviously "interfere with or avoid civil investigations or canonical investigations," Rozanski responded to Accuser #4 and Accuser #5 with insensitivity and best and hostility at worst, trying to ensure that others who may have information or suspicions about Fr. Anderson will be discouraged or frightened from speaking up.
Rozanski's record in other cases
Sadly, Rozanski’s deliberate intimidation and deceit in the Fr. Anderson case is no anomaly. Throughout his tenure in St. Louis (and previously in Massachusetts), by acts of commission and omission, Rozanski concealed and conceals abuse and protected and protects predators.
Consider his sparse list of ‘accused’ priests on the archdiocesan website, and the many ways in which it is designed to impede and prevent abuse investigations by omitting and obscuring the full truth.
Rozanski interferes with or avoids civil or canonical (abuse) investigations by refusing to
--disclose/provide photos of the offenders, their whereabouts or last known address, their work histories, (even though a number of his US colleagues do share this information with the public).
--include the names of and details about religious order clerics, even though a number of his US colleagues do share this information with the public. (Over decades, hundreds if not thousands of Jesuits have worked at St. Louis University, and at least a dozen Marianists are accused of molesting kids at Vianney, and other high schools in the archdiocese.)
--include the names of and details about accused clerics who are or have been in the St. Louis area treatment centers or facilities
--include the names of and details about several accused diocesan clerics who may have been ordained and/or primarily worked elsewhere but who also were or are around St. Louis area children. https://www.snapnetwork.org/priest_credibly_accused_list_five_mar21
Several times during his tenure in St. Louis, we in SNAP have publicly called on Rozanski, for the sake of healing, transparency and prevention, to expand his list of accused predators. As best we can tell, the archbishop took no action whatsoever on our requests. (More details at SNAPnetwork.org)
Including this information on his website would certainly bring forward more victims. Rozanski and his advisers are smart men. They know this. Yet he and they choose to err on the side of secrecy rather than safety. They know that a more thorough list of accused clerics might prompt a criminal investigation, either criminal or church, and so opt for a smaller, more vague and less helpful one.
For more information, the official archdiocesan ‘accused’ list is here. It includes 69 names.
A much more thorough and helpful list of accused predators who are or were in the St. Louis archdiocese (compiled by an independent research group) is here. It includes 114 names.
When he was in Massachusetts, Rozanski’s list of accused child molesting clerics in was among the least helpful and most vague of all the lists put out by US bishops. Many such lists include the number of allegations, the years of the alleged offenses, the names of churches where the accused worked, and other relevant and helpful details. Rozanski’s list omits this crucial information.
And it appears that while Rozanski was in Massachusetts, his list of accused child molesting clerics wasn’t been substantially updated in at least four years. (It was originally posted on the diocesan site in 2011, the same day that Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley first posted his Boston list In 2016, apparently one name – Fr. Paul Archambault – was added.)
For seven years, Rozanski was on the largely ineffective US bishops National Committee for the Protection of Youth and Young People (2007-2014) If any prelate should be ‘ahead of the pack’ on childrens’ safety, it should be one who spent time on this panel. Sadly, that’s just not true of Rozanski.
When he was tapped to be the St. Louis archbishop, Rozanski told a newspaper "Healing begins with transparency."
Rozanski is half right. Prevention, we submit, also begins with transparency.
He told that same newspaper "We're trying as best we can to be as transparent, as proactive as we can."
It's clear that, in fact, he is NOT doing "as best we can." At best, he's doing the bare minimum. And he keeps a cleric, accused of molesting five boys, on the job without even a perfunctory suspension or investigation, effectively scaring and depressing those with information or suspicions, that might help or launch an investigation, into staying silent.
Innocent children and vulnerable adults in our archdiocese remain at risk of horrific harm because of Rozanski's actions and inaction.
David Clohessy of SNAP, 314 566 9790, [email protected]